Oh the sound of a good tube amp… Everyone knows that a tube amp doesn’t start sounding good until you start cranking it up so you can get that saturation and those harmonics coming out of the mild distortion. At least electric guitar players think everyone knows that. The truth is that most people don’t know that and frankly don’t care.
A 15 watt tube (or valve if you’re British) amp can part your hair and many players are using something more akin to 60-100 watt amps which can part your ear drums. Tie that in with a drummer that “plays with passion” and you’ve got one loud band – my point today.
All this is great for a band that loves to crank it up and get lost in the sound, but anytime a band is playing – other than rehearsal or just a jam get-together – there are others in the room. These “others” have either paid to hear the band (concert or a night out on the town) or have come to have the band serve their needs – churches, receptions, dinners… The long and short of it is that most bands don’t take the listener into account past getting a little glory.
Case in point – a start-up worship band at a church trying out a new “contemporary service” used their standard rock ‘n’ roll crank it up volume during these services – within a gym no less – and they immediately begin getting comments of, “It’s too loud.” When approached by their employers the band made no adjustments. The church leaders tried turning down the amps. The band turned back up. The instruments were taken out of the house mix. Still too loud. At last check the worship service was down to 10 people or less – about the amount of people who are directly associated with the band. Hey boys, take a tip – “Turn it down!”
One of the best sounding cover bands I’ve ever heard also happens to have the lowest stage volume I’ve ever heard. I know first hand because I’ve played on their stage with their equipment as an opening act. They’ve been playing the area for over 20 years. You don’t get that kind of longevity if you are clearing rooms with decibels. It takes some getting used to, but it’s the only way to give those who have come to hear you or be served by you what they want and what they need.
Louder is not better – it’s worser, uh badder, uh crummyer – you get it.
…and don’t we all want to sound great in the first place? Don’t handicap yourself with volume.